Taking a Break vs. Breaking Up – Can some breathing space be good for a relationship?


Relationships are a very necessary element of life (I’ve already made my thoughts on haters and 30-something virgins clear in previous posts). That said, relationships (even the seemingly perfect ones) are inevitably difficult. Even if two people share a lot of commonalities, there’s bound to come a time where both parties won’t see eye to eye on an issue or predicament. Add to that the general obstacles that life throws into the mix and it’s no wonder there are times you feel like pulling your hair out. Naturally, in any good relationship things will be peachy most of the time and with a little bit of work two mature adults can probably iron out issues and come to some sort of understanding on their differences. However, there are also some life problems that can drag on and may not be even within the control of the two parties themselves.

Of course, there are quitters that run at the first sign of trouble. And maybe, for them, that’s a good thing. But there are others who try to find ways to fix things. When you hit a rocky patch in a relationship, and it carries on a little too long the easiest option may be to cut your losses and call time on the union. However, things aren’t always so clear cut or ‘fixable’.  In some instances, while you may feel like a tortoise running in peanut butter when it comes to relationship issues a break up may not be an option in your mind because your feelings for your partner are just too strong. So, you may reason that ‘taking a break’ and spending some time apart may give the much-needed breathing space necessary to reevaluate the situation.

Of course, there are some people that ‘a break’ is nothing more than cowardly precursor to an actual break up. But we’ve also all seen those couples that are constantly breaking up and making up which is nothing more than annoying drama queen behavior. So perhaps taking a step back is the most mature way to deal with things when your getting close to breaking point and feeling that the pressure could force you to make a bad decisions. That said, what the hell is ‘a break’, anyway? The term can mean different things to different people so it’s good to set some parameters when it comes to any sort of trial separation. Here a few things worth considering before making the move…


What are the reasons behind the ‘break’?

Pressing the pause button on your relationship certainly shouldn’t be the first line of action when it comes to your problems. Ask yourself whether you’ve sufficiently communicated with your partner about the issues. Simply taking some time apart to stare mindlessly into space isn’t going to solve anything unless you’ve addressed the issues and had some sort of discussion about it beforehand. Remember no one is a mind reader so make sure you are both on the same page before embarking along this path.


Is it just a way to avoid the inevitable?

As I said before, some people believe that taking a break is a bad sign and means doom for the relationship. Maybe? Maybe not? Again, look at the nature of the problem you guys are trying to solve. Is it something that can possibly be overcome? Or is it something bigger than the two of you? Be honest with yourselves. It’s tempting to want to try to wean yourself off someone you are attached to rather than calling it quits one time but if deep down you know your aren’t meant to be then perhaps you should simply rip off that band-aid and get things over with?


What are the ‘break’ rules?

Remember when in Friends when Ross and Rachel took a break and he cheated but thought it was OK because they weren’t technically together at the time. Yeah, that’s exactly why people need to lay some ground rules. You are taking a break because you’ve got problems, try not to exacerbate things by leaving things open to interpretation.

I think it’s important to state how ‘open’ you want your relationship to be over the break period. Firstly, establish whether you want to sleep with/date other people when  you are apart or whether this is solely a period for actual alone time to reflect on the relationship at hand. (Personally, I’m not a fan of the whole open relationship thing and think that bringing new people into the mix will only really serve to complicate matters).

Secondly, set a time limit for the break. You can’t stay apart forever (unless things do escalate into a full blown break up) but you also need to give yourselves real time to work through things (the last time I tried a break it last all of 48 hours where we talked constantly anyway!). This leads me to the next point, set some rules about communication…do you still plan on checking in on each other or does a break really mean a break on all fronts?


Will absence really make the heart grow fonder?

Well, that is the million dollar question. Of course, in an ideal world absence would make the heart grow fonder and the time/distance you’ve given yourselves will refuel your love and longing for one another and you’ll both return to the relationship re-energised and ready to take on whatever the world throws at you. But things aren’t always so. Be aware that the break may also have negative implications on the relationship. One or both parties may realise that in fact they hardly miss each other and single life is far more fun. So while it is OK into the break hoping for the best, you should probably also prepare yourself for the worst.

So all in all, making the decision to take a break from a relationship shouldn’t be seen as an easy option. If you truly want the best outcome (remember the best outcome could in fact be a break up!) it’s important to be talk things through and be clear of what you want and what is expected. Life really isn’t all hearts and flowers and the path to happily ever after isn’t always linear. In some cases, the breathing space offered by a break from the relationship may offer the clarity needed to overcome certain issues. In other instances, it may just prove that some problems truly are insurmountable. Ultimately, I think taking a well-thought out break can be a sign of a mature relationship as opposed to a childish one where people make spontaneous rash decisions without thinking about the repercussions. And at the end of the day, even if the outcome of the break is that it marks the end of a relationship, at least you can both walk away knowing that you gave things a fair shot.


Alright Rinsers, time for your thoughts. Have you ever taken a break in a relationship? Did it work out well for you or did it simply mark the beginning of the end? Do you think taking a break is a sign of weakness or a mature course of action? Share your experiences in the comments below.


  1. As you pointed out, I literally just blogged about this exact experience here:

    At 51, I am definitely guilty of having been too quick to ‘throw away’, rather than deal with issues, and I think your post is full of useful practical suggestions. My studies of Attachment Theory have shown me that my style is a bit Avoidant (hence all the superficial online dating I’ve done), so digging down through the bumps with my new love ‘H’ is a challenge, but one which is bringing rewards so far…


  2. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m probably the opposite in that I stick around for far too long trying to fix things that are sometimes broken beyond repair. But I’m beginning to think that sometimes sticking around isn’t always the best solution and can sometimes make things even worse. Perhaps taking a break is the perfect middle ground or the perfect cop out? I’m not too sure.


  3. I took a break once and although we really missed each and at first we just realised we’d moved too quickly. Taking a step back was good for us. We went back to basics and started actually dating again. As in old fashioned courting. We started build things up again. All looked well. But also the break allowed her to keep her one out for other options and in the end she found an option better than me. Turns out it was someone she’d been interested in for years, but he was married to someone else while we were together. When their marriage hit the rocks, she was ‘on a break’ from me so she took her chance. It worked out well for her. Not for me and I was the one who called for a break.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh. Sorry that the break didn’t work out so well in the end. But hopefully you can look back at some point and see it was for the best. However, as you pointed out the break did give you a chance to reassess and give things a second shot. If you’d stayed perhaps things would have gone downhill a lot quicker…


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